Month: October 2012

Deep Geothermal Energy in Scotland workshop – Jim Hart

I took part in a workshop looking at the potential for deep geothermal energy in Scotland at the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh.

The workshop related to a study being carried out by AECOM and the BGS for the Scottish Government. Topics covered included the resource, finance, legal and licensing issues, and planning and the environment. Lots of interesting discussion follows, but here I’ll just stick to a few observations about the resource, and how it might be used.

Looking at the resource, the BGS outlined how the latest thinking suggests that the temperature gradients at depth (say 2km to 5km or so) – and therefore the deep geothermal resource – might previously have been underestimated. However, there are no on-shore boreholes of sufficient depth in Scotland to definitively prove the case either way. The vision is that temperatures of 150ºC or so could be tapped into, and the energy used to generate electricity. A distinct advantage of this form of renewable power over others is that it can be run as baseload, and turned down as required: generation would not be at the whim of a fluctuating resource. There was a call for this to be recognised in the ROC regime for geothermal energy.

More accessible, though, is the not-so-deep geothermal energy that might be tapped into through the extensive redundant mine workings throughout the Central Belt. Existing at depths from near the surface down to around 900m at some mines, huge volumes of water (temperatures from around 12 ºC up to around the mid-thirties) can be abstracted at depth, passed through a heat pump, and returned – cooler – to a point nearer the surface. There are already a couple of fairly shallow schemes using mine water in Scotland, but the prospect of accessing the much warmer water at depth attracted much interest. The heat extracted can be used to heat people’s homes, and it was noted that there is a correlation between the availability of this resource and fuel poverty in former mining communities, so the time may well have come for such developments.

The BGS has already done a lot of work in 3D mapping of mine-workings in Scotland. Its 3D subsurface geological model of the Clyde Gateway, Glasgow can be seen here:
Related press article here:

BlueGen generator launch at ECCI by Jim Hart

The Scottish low carbon project developer iPower linked up with technology firm Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd (CFCL) for the Scottish launch of the BlueGen generator at ECCI.

The case for fuel cells in general, and the merits of this particular device were explored in a seminar hosted by ECCI, 24th October 2012.  Delegates, who included potential customers such as Registered Social Landlords, got the chance to see one of the generators for themselves and consider the potential for this technology in their own properties.

Paddy Thomson of CFCL added to this and spoke about the BlueGen system itself, whilst Jon Cape outlined iPower’s finance model, which enables customers not to worry about the up-front capital cost.  Instead, customers just need to pay for the energy provided (at a discount to energy provided by the utility companies). In addition, Jim Hart (ECCI) and Nigel Holmes (SHFCA) provided some context on fuel cells and the low carbon economy, and Dave McGrath of Richard Irvin Sustainable Energy spoke about system integration.

BlueGen ceramic fuel cells offer a breakthrough in making local energy generation cost-effective. These fuel cells are reported to convert natural gas into electricity with similar efficiency to the better large gas-fired power stations, but, unlike such power stations electricity is not lost in transmission, and the heat generated as a by-product can be used to provide domestic hot water (this is very difficult in the case of a power station). A fuel cell is therefore an efficient, effective and relatively low-carbon means of using gas – which, in turn, can be converted into savings for customers. Several BlueGen installations have been carried out in England over the last year or so, and this event marked their introduction to the Scottish market and an expected ramping up of the installation rate.

Presentation links:

Jim Hart explains:

ECCI’s energy and built environment specialist Jim Hart explains the role of fuel cells in the transition to the low carbon economy in this short animation: